How To Spend Money Without Thinking About It

I have a confession to make. I’m a sucker for cool technology. If it’s new and different and meets a need I didn’t even know I had, even better. I don’t have an Apple watch, but that doesn’t mean I don’t drool over them a little.

So when I spotted the Amazon Dash Button I had to delve deeper.

Amazon dash

So what is it? To be honest, when I noticed it advertised on my Amazon home page I figured it was a web browser add-on, a little menu bar button that allowed super quick ordering maybe? What caught my attention was the phrase ‘usually ships in 3-5 weeks’. What is this? A novelty like the Staples Easy Button?

No, no and no! This button is way cooler than that. Here’s the description from Amazon:

Amazon Dash Button is a Wi-Fi connected device that reorders your favorite product with the press of a button. Each Dash Button is paired with a product of your choice, which is selected during the set-up process.

Free after first press. Buy Dash Button for $4.99 and receive a $4.99 credit after your first press.

Easy to use. Press Dash Button to order your favorite products.

Buy with confidence. Get the same low prices we offer on

Never run out. Stock up on your favorite products with Dash Button.

Order Protection. Ensures Dash Button responds only to your first press until your order is delivered.

Prime members get free shipping

Oh, that is beyond cool! You mean I can have a button in my laundry closet to press when I am running out of detergent? One in the bathroom for toilet paper? One in the kitchen drawer for Ziplock bags? I can then find these products on my doorstep two days later?

I can buy this stuff without even thinking about it?

Of course I can and it’s brilliant marketing. What big company wouldn’t want to absorb the cost of a ‘button’ that allows a customer to be tied into their product. A button that removes all need to go to a store – online or brick and mortar – where they can be tempted by alternative brands and other prices. And it’s so damn cool!

The Amazon Button really is the ultimate in easy spending. It’s a pinnacle of technology making it simple for us to be parted from our hard earned dollars, and all in the name of ultra-convenience. I can purchase goods without a second thought. Completely without intention. It takes all decision making out of my hands.

It’s not alone though. If we look around us at many other conveniences in our lives, we can see quite quickly how easy it has become to spend without intention

The transaction component of a purchase that was once carried out by the transfer of cash or a check is now even simpler than the swipe of a credit card. We can wave a contactless credit card over a sensor. We can flash an Apple Watch or iPhone to use Apple Pay. We can buy coffee with our auto-reloaded Starbucks card on our phones. All of these convenient and speedy solutions serve to make spending unintentional. The transaction is done in the blink of an eye and without any particular consideration of money spent.

We can find this unintentional and convenient spending hiding in other areas too. Every online store we shop at wants to save our credit card information when we make a purchase. It’s very simple then on our next visit to that store to check out in seconds using that stored information. Subscriptions work the same way. Whether it is magazine subscriptions, wine clubs, gym memberships or Netflix. Once we sign up the expense is recurring but unseen. We don’t have to particularly think about whether we really want to continue the service we signed up for, it’s just there, every month and every year.

These are all example of how effortless it is to spend without intention. I have nothing against the convenience factor, but that usually goes hand in hand with the lack of mindfulness about the transaction.

So, is this a problem?

Let’s go back a couple of years in the life of Mr. and Mrs. PIE. As we have detailed before, we were never bad at saving and never carried significant debt beyond car payments and a mortgage. However, we weren’t bad at spending either. And by spending I mean spending without mindfulness. While we were in no way living paycheck to paycheck, we were frequently surprised by how large our monthly credit card bills were, and often juggled the payment date with to sit nicely with paychecks coming in and other large expenses going out.

Then, we finally realized that life could be different, and if we desired Financial Independence we had to have a goal. We needed to increase our savings by reigning in our monthly expenses. The first step towards this was to understand our expenses. This is true for anyone that wants to have some control over their money. Whether it is in paying down debt, planning for the future, or simply a desire not to waste money. Everyone should really know where their money goes.

There are so many wonderful tools out there for tracking expenses. We like to use Mint, I know many others like to use the transactions feature in Personal Capital. We started out using the tracker provided by Bank of America – which was surprisingly powerful. Each of these tools can categorize your spend in any number of ways and quickly reveal not just your largest areas of spend, but the smaller more ‘one off’ expenses too.

That’s step one, understanding what you spend. Step two is figuring out how to make changes to reduce expenses.

This seemingly daunting task was simplified for us by listening to this podcast from the remarkable Mad Fientist and the incomparable J. Money of Budgets are $exy. Here J. Money details how he ‘challenges everything’ when it comes to expenses. Nothing goes unchallenged, from the largest to smallest expense. Is the expense necessary? Can it be cut or eliminated? We applied this approach to our own spending, starting with some of our larger expenses and then delving into smaller items. Reducing spend in larger areas was relatively simple, groceries and restaurants were an easy win. What fascinated me were the smaller items of spend that crept in. The real meat and bones of spending without intention. These are more often than not, recurring monthly or annual expenses. Each of these items has been assessed with the ‘Challenge Everything’ mindset. Many got cut outright; others were left in place knowing that they had value. What comes from this is not just savings, but knowledge. We have made a mindful decision to spend money on certain things and not others.

I present to you a working list of Challenged Expenses from Mr. and Mrs. PIE. This doesn’t cover everything we’ve challenged and altered – merely a snapshot of our thought processes and things we’ve changed (warning, Mr. PIE’s love of tables is rubbing off on me!)

table 1

Table 2

Table 3

*Here’s a link to FitStar. It’s a referral link which means if you try it out you get a free month and so do I. Don’t feel obliged, but if you do you can feel good that you are helping to keep Mrs. PIE in shape!

In case you got table fatigue let me reiterate the figure in that last table: a saving of $1,685 a month!

One line item not included here is travel and vacation. We have undoubtedly changed our approach here. Where once we may have had two or even three expensive vacations a year, we have mindfully chosen to cut back on this in favor of using our vacation home more. In addition, we are now actively ‘travel hacking’ to reduce our out of pocket expenses further. As these are such one-off expenses I’m not able to capture these changes as a dollar value yet. Stay tuned, this will be the subject of an upcoming post.

The important take away here is not only the reduction in monthly and annual expenses; it’s the changed mindset that we now have that challenges everything on a day to day basis. Whether it’s questioning the brand of laundry detergent we use when a cheaper alternative is available, or choosing to make coffee at home instead of visiting Starbucks. Each transaction, whether slick and technologically enabled, or by old fashioned check writing, is now a mindful purchase.

Not so long ago, I confess I would have been sucked into ordering a couple of Amazon Buttons. Maybe more. Who wouldn’t want to live with the future of technology in their homes? Today however, I see what the end result of this effortless spending can be. When the convenience of technology removes our ability to see what we spend our money on and why, we can only lose. Intentional and mindful spending is a necessity to make our plans and dreams become reality.

Have you challenged your expenses? Where do you spend easy and unintentionally?


  1. I used to spend easily and unintentionally on coffee, usually at work. Somehow, even though I pretty much always bought a cup of plain brewed coffee, it still added up to quite a bit over the course of a month. Now, I bring my own coffee or tea to work and skip the cost (and time) of coffee runs.

    My current unintentional-spending downfall is happy hour with friends. It’s so easy to buy a drink or snack when it’s “on special” and everyone else is doing it. And then, when the bill comes, it’s always more than I anticipated spending. I’m currently challenging my expenses by trying not to spend any money for the entire month of May, and I have so far successfully avoided social outings to restaurants and bars (which has helped tremendously!) while not becoming a complete recluse. I think social outings will always be a source of expenditures for me, but it’s good to know that I can become more mindful of and reduce those costs while still enjoying a night out from time to time.

    1. I think the major part of the battle is understanding where the weak points are for spending, whether it’s coffee, social activities or groceries. Once that battle is won, it’s so much easier to make the rest fall into place. If you don’t know what’s gong on, you can’t fix it!
      Good luck with the no spend month – very impressive!

  2. Nice ideas, great savings! I’ve done something similar with each of my line items. I did get rid of the gym membership by taking up running (well more like jogging) and buying weights which I do classes along with You Tube classes.

    1. Thanks! The gym membership kind of annoys me. I could almost classify it as a commuting expense as it gets me to the city early before the traffic and I work out then shower ready for work. I don’t need a gym to work out, but I do need the shower! One of the reasons I’m looking forward to not being trapped in a work schedule.

    1. yes, and there is more to do! We have already amazed ourselves by how much we have saved, and of course it’s all heading straight to Vanguard!

  3. We are about to challenge some more thinking. Mr SSC is thinking of ditching his expensive car for more of a base model, and we are going to cut cable. I always shop around for new insurance policies every year – its amazing how quickly you can save a few hundred dollars. And as time goes on, and you get used to the new normal after that first set of cuts, there are often more changes that can be made.

    1. you’re right, it’s an ongoing and iterative process. The key thing I found is not to try to do it all at once. this has been ongoing for us for several months, if not over a year. We tackle one thing at a time then move on to the next.
      The new normal is certainly real. It takes a new mindset to even realize what other opportunities for savings there are!

  4. Those Amazon buttons are going to cause some serious damage to people haha. Looks like you have altered your savings in a positive way! Like yourself I have realized that subscriptions to magazines are a waste of time and have cut back on my alcohol purchases.

    1. It’s funny what low cost some of these subscriptions are, really peanuts. but its the combination of them all that really starts to have an effect on the budget. That’s why we found it so important to challenge them all, even the seemingly small expenses

  5. A button to press to get my favourite sushi home delivered would be great! Other than that, I prefer to be conscious about my spending.

    the area where I spend easy is on eating out with the family. This falls in the fun budget and thus do not require any justification. At the same time, it is limited in amount per month.

    Clearly an area we could challenge, we just do not feel like doing so.

      1. Had a memorable / enjoyable experience with Kwak although a few too many and resulting hangover was rather troublesome…..

  6. Eating out and groceries were a big one for us – it doesn’t hit you until you take the time to look at your spending habits and realize your spending yourself into working for 45 years

    We still spend unnecessary money – but constantly challenge ourselves to do it in areas we care about

    1. You’ve hit the nail on the head. It’s not just about cutting expenses, but choosing mindfully what to spend on and make sure those are the most important things to you

  7. Hey Mrs PIE, nice article.

    Those Amazon things are cool but are really turning people into mindless shopping zombies. It’s like an animal that pushes a button/lever/something and food comes out. I do not like that idea at all.

    Good job on all the savings that will really help your savings and investments.

    We are extremely lean with our budget, we hardly spend anything except the core basic expenses, plus we’ve just cut out restaurant and takeaway food too. So there’s not much else we can do. But in the future, as our income grows (and we aren’t saving for IVF) we will constantly challenge ourselves.


  8. That’s a big difference is savings! We did a similar exercise when we decided to change our spending habits, and discovered that eating out and entertainment were the biggest two categories for us. We also cut out our gym membership and set up a home gym which we believe was well worth the investment. It’s amazing how much these little things add up to!

    1. Congrats on finding all those items to cut and doing it! I’m pleasantly surprised that all these shifts in our expenses hasn’t really felt very difficult, it hasn’t felt like a big lifestyle change at all!

  9. As convenient as it is, I fear anything that let’s you buy something with the click of one button. They are just making it way too easy. I like a little delay before I buy something just to make sure I really want to go through with it.

    1. I agree, speedy purchases are not good! I like the idea of asking yourself if you needed the item yesterday and needed the item three days ago. If the answer is yes then it’s probably ok to purchase!

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